Skip to main content
THE ART OF LIVING
that deserves special attention. The principle of harmony with
nature is carried further, for in the Chinese conception the
house and garden are not separate, but are parts of an organic
whole, as evidenced in the phraseyuanchek, or "garden-home/*
A house and a garden can never become an organic whole so
long as we have a square building, surrounded by a mown
tennis lawn. The word for "garden" here does not suggest a
lawn and geometric flower-beds, but a patch of earth where one
can plant vegetables and fruits and sit undfcr the shade of trees.
The Chinese conception of the home requires that the home,
with a well, a poultry yard, and a few date trees, must be able
to arrange itself commodiously in space. And given com-
modious space, in ancient China as in all rural civilizations,
the house itself dwindles to a comparatively less important
position in the general scheme of the home garden.
Human civilization has changed so much that space is
something that the average man cannot own and cannot have.
We have gone so far that a man is entirely complacent when he
owns a mow of civilized lawn, in the midst of which he succeeds
in digging a five-foot pond to keep his goldfish and making a
mound that would not take ants five minutes to crawl to the
top. This has changed entirely our conception of the home.
There is no more poultry yard, no well and no place where one's
children can catch crickets and get comfortably dirty. Instead,
our home becomes physically like a pigeon's house called
an "apartment," with a combination of buttons, switches,
cabinets, rubber mats, keyholes, wires and burglar-alarms
which we call a home. There are no attics, no dirt and no
spiders. Our perversion of the idea of a home has gone so far
that some Western people are even proud of the fact that they
sleep on a bed which is the back of a daytime sofa. They
show it to their friends and marvel at modern technological
civilization. The modern spiritual home is broken up because
the physical home has disappeared, as Edward Sapir pointed
out* People move into a three-room flat and then wonder why
they can never keep their children at home.
The average poor Chinese in the country has more space of
his own than a New York professor. But there are Chinese
living in cities as well, and not all of them own huge gardens.